By Rev. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
November 18, 2022
The full passage of the misnamed “Respect for Marriage Act” (RFMA) in the U.S. Senate and then the House seems likely if enough Republicans don’t come to their senses. The measure got through a cloture vote in the Senate, 62-37, and 12 Republicans made it possible. The final vote could come before you’ve read this article, or it might come later this month.
Sometimes hypocrisy runs rank on both sides of the aisle in politics. Before the election of 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the empty seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland was denied a hearing because it was too close to the election, Republicans argued. At that time, Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the people should have a voice. “Give the people a voice,” he admonished.
Even though I deplore hypocrisy, I would be hypocritical myself if I didn’t say I’m glad it worked out that way. Nevertheless, in all transparency, don’t the 12 Senate Republicans who facilitated a vote on the redefinition of marriage believe the people should have had a vote on this question, too? I suggest a vote on same-sex marriage and the opportunity to weigh in with the newly elected Republican members was equally important, arguably more important, than deciding on a Supreme Court justice. Please make no mistake; the 12 Republicans who went along with the far left on same-sex marriage did so because they knew the new Republican-controlled House would probably never take up such a bill in 2023.
I am confident these 12 Republican Senators will defend their vote in the coming days. In North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis will vigorously argue to his constituents that his leadership on the matter was the right thing to do. He will also say he was instrumental in getting an amendment with protections that sufficiently preserve religious liberties.
Because I have always considered Senator Tillis a friend and characteristically a good leader, I want to believe him. But trusted voices from conservative legal organizations and religious leaders, who genuinely understand religious liberty issues, say the Respect for Marriage Act remains a bad bill. It will make conservative Christians who hold tenaciously to traditional marriage more vulnerable to legal harassment by Progressives and LGBTQ activists.
Here is what they’re saying:
“[R]ather than adding any new concrete protections for religious individuals and organizations threatened by the Respect for Marriage Act, the new section simply states that those Americans whose beliefs are infringed can invoke already existing legal protections, like the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). As such, this new provision does not fix the bill’s negative impact on religious exercise and freedom of conscience. Those targeted under the bill will be forced to spend years in litigation and thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to protect their rights…
- It empowers the government to punish tens of millions of Americans who wish to live according to their deeply held beliefs.
- It exposes religious individuals and organizations to predatory lawsuits.
- It could weaponize the IRS against faith-based organizations by threatening their nonprofit status.”
-Gregory S. Baylor, Alliance Defending Freedom, director of the Center for Religious Schools and Senior Counsel for Government Affairs.
“Whatever lip service they may be paying in this amendment is not going to take away the fact that we are completely blowing up the understanding of marriage, disrespecting people and organizations that believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and opening them up to lawsuits, not just from the federal government, but from other people…People of faith are coming under increased aggression from the federal government and state governments over their beliefs about marriage and family. And so what the so-called Respect for Marriage Act is going to do is give more authority to the federal government to be able to enforce this broad understanding that marriage is anything that a state says it is.”
-Matt Sharp, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom
“Nothing in HR 8404 or the proposed amendment will provide any protection for religious individuals or organization, and the subsequent amendments to the bill exclude a large percentage of constitutionally and statutorily protected religious organizations. If HR 8404, the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, passes, gender will be irrelevant, not only in marriage, but also in any aspect of American life.”
-Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University’s law school, founded the nonprofit organization Liberty Counsel and serves as chairman. ProPublica called him “a leading Christian legal theorist.”
“The new amended Senate bill—the ‘common sense’ bill that ‘protects Americans’ religious liberties’—actually does no such thing. The amended language includes vague assurances that the legislation will not violate religious freedom but it mostly assures us that the bill will not do what no one claimed it would do, such as require congregations and churches to solemnize same-sex marriages. What is left wide open is the threat to ministries such as Christian orphanages and children’s care, as well as adoption ministries and foster care. This amended language resolves nothing, but is offered as an assurance that religious freedom is protected. By the way, the language of the bill does not offer any absolute protection against polygamy if a state legalizes it in some form.”
-Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries and is really the “Destruction of Marriage Act.” Its sponsors remarkably claim it protects religious freedom. It does not. This disastrous bill sends a message to America that if you don’t agree with the left’s definition of marriage, you are a bigot.”
-Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse
“Of course, no one on the Left is framing the Respect for Marriage Act as an education bill — and that’s by design. Democrats are hoping that if Republicans don’t look at the legislation too closely — if they’re too worried about appearing intolerant to read the fine print — they won’t realize that everything moms and dads have fought for these last few years would be destroyed. Like free speech, conscience rights, tax-exempt statuses, religious freedom, and every other fundamental value on the chopping block with this bill, the right of parents to have a say in their children’s education would vanish.”
-Suzanne Bowdey, senior writer for Family Research Council in Washington, DC
“Catholic institutions will have a tough time living our faith under this legislation. In fact, giving religious institutions a tough time seems to be the point of the legislation. But the U.S. Constitution guarantees free exercise of religion, not just expression of religion.”
-Stephen Minnis, president of the Catholic Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas
“The so-called Respect for Marriage Act is the federal government ‘explicitly declaring the Bible is wrong,’ noting that the legislation allows ‘any private actor to initiate a lawsuit if a religious school wishes to recognize only traditional marriages.’ The act ‘means exposing our community to a host of bad actors willing to engage in litigation…The Jewish community is used to periodic efforts to misuse the law to abuse our rights to live according to our religion. Here you have a piece of legislation that exposes every traditional Jewish practitioner of anything to potential litigation.'”
-Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the founder of Project Genesis and the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, as reported by The Daily Signal.
“Americans were told that same-sex marriage was about live and let live, yet now liberals are going out of their way to undermine the religious freedom of millions of Americans. No matter how the Left spins this, this legislation sets a national policy for same-sex marriage that would declare open season on people of faith. Americans deserve to have their First Amendment rights protected, not attacked.”
-Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy at The Heritage Foundation
“The bill will be a new arrow in the quiver of those who wish to deny religious organizations’ liberty to freely exercise their religious duties, strip them of their tax exemptions, or exclude them from full participation in the public arena.”
– Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty
“Marriage is the union of husband and wife. It’s bad enough that five members of the Supreme Court wrongly claimed that the U.S. Constitution requires a new definition of marriage. But if the Senate votes to codify this redefinition of marriage, all it will do is add fuel to the fire of those harassing and penalizing citizens and organizations that hold to the truth about marriage. The Senate bill pays lip service to religious liberty and conscience rights, but it does not offer any meaningful protections for those rights. Had the Senate sponsors wanted to, they could have explicitly stated that no individual or organization could be penalized by the government for operating according to the conviction that marriage unites husband and wife—particularly that the IRS may not strip any such organization of its non-profit status. But the bill offers no such protections. It is not a compromise, not even a bad compromise. It enshrines a false definition of marriage in our law and then tells people they can have their day in court if and when they get sued. That’s not public policy for the common good.”
– Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
“The reality is that we know that marriage is an institution designed by God for human flourishing. He designed it in a very specific way – one man and one woman in a marriage covenant for life. The reality is if this bill passes, if it becomes law, it will lead people away from the truth and God’s design.”
-Brent Leatherwood, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
“Though the ERLC is grateful for the marginal improvements to the original version of the bill, the bipartisan amendment does not provide adequate protections for religious liberty. This bill, even as amended, does not provide meaningful protection for those that maintain a traditional view of marriage. This amendment invites further confusion and litigation without offering sufficient security for the many faith-based organizations serving their communities outside of ‘solemnizing or celebrating marriages.’ Through reiterating the protections that already exist in the law and using unhelpfully vague language, the amendment appears to offer people and institutions of faith more additional protection than it actually does.”
-Hannah Daniel, Policy Associate in the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Washington, D.C. office.
“Over 50 million Americans went to the polls in three dozen states to define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman and this legislation throws their votes out the window and thus disrespects marriage. They claim to have negotiated an amendment to ‘protect’ religious liberty and ban polygamy, but legal experts say the amendment is full of loopholes and will not work. Besides imposing same-sex marriage on every state, the legislation would also force child bride marriages on the country as well, and every other perverse form of marriage that is allowed in at least one state. That’s because the bill provides that marriages that are legal in one state must be recognized in every state regardless of that state’s marriage laws.”
-Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage
I must tell you that I am heartbroken over this horrible bill and Sen. Tillis’ leadership to strike a compromise to garner the necessary votes. He will undoubtedly assure us shortly that all is well. He didn’t betray our values; our religious liberties are well-protected.
Nevertheless, we are left with the unavoidable choices of whether to believe a man who, as a Roman Catholic, has defied the teaching of his own church, which holds strictly to a traditional view of marriage, or whether to believe those who have devoted their lives to defending and advancing the biblical definition of marriage. Prudence and discernment beckon me to choose the latter.
I will pray for Sen. Tillis and Burr and the 10 other Republicans who helped to bring about this sad end in the Senate, which could also mean unfortunate days for those who insist on obeying God and defending his definition of marriage. But while I pray for the repentance and forgiveness of these Republicans, I don’t think it inappropriate to add an imprecatory prayer to the mix should they remain steadfast in their sin.
Our Heavenly Father,
Hear our prayer for your name’s sake. Grant us our petitions that your purposes and glory may be advanced.
We earnestly pray for those who have forsaken truth and would codify a lie into law. We pray for those who have elevated the deceitfully perceived rights of men above your own rights. We pray that you would forgive them, for they know not what they do. We pray that you will illumine their hearts and minds and set them on the right path. We pray for the defeat of evil in them and through them.
Nevertheless, we also ask that where men and women in power are unrepentant and given to wicked designs, “may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them” (Psalm 35:6). O God, break the teeth of their political powers; tear out their strong fangs, which are like those of young lions, O LORD! (Psalm 58:6). We pray for your sovereignty over our nation and for the protection of those who love and obey your commandments.
We pray not in the spirit of revenge but in the Spirit of Him, our Lord Jesus Christ, who seeks to reconcile all of life to yourself.